It was a dirty job and not a well paying job. Four flat-wick lamps replaced the tallow candles which gave off little light. Whale oil was used in the lanterns and later kerosene that was much less expensive. The Fresnel lamp issued to the lighthouses by the U.S. Lighthouse Board replaced the lanterns. Congress delegated the Department of Commerce to replace the Lighthouse Board in 1910.
The task of taking care of the lamps was the lighthouse keepers on –going job every few hours. The Clifford’s research states:
“The lamps burned whale oil, which gave off a large amount of smoke and soot, dimming the light and hazing over the glass around the lantern. The oil in the lamps had to be replenished two or three times during the night, the wicks trimmed, and the glass wiped clean. At dawn, the lamps were extinguished and cleaned.”
In an article written by the East Hampton Star, February 28, 1963, 75 years after the blizzard of 1888 that “stopped nearly everything on Long Island (except the Star).”
Captain James G. Scott was appointed keeper of the Montauk Lighthouse a year earlier with his wife, Margaret Stanton, and six children.
“Captain Scott had arrived at Montauk in December, 1885 and soon had a taste of weather at the Point. This is an entry in a log relating the storm: OnJan. 9, 1886a gale hit: ‘1 p.m. kitchen chimney blowed off and well house blowed over.’”
Emily Scott was the only surviving child of the six children born to his wife Margaret. Her brother, Walter, 14, drowned in Money Pond while sailing with a friend. Her other siblings died earlier.
Construction of the Montauk Lighthouse was “authorized by the Second United States Congress under George Washington onApril 12, 1792. Construction began in June 1796 and completed November of 1796. The first lighthouse keeper to light the wick in the lamps was Jacob Hand. It is the first lighthouse inNew YorkStateand Henry Osmers says with a sense of pride, “the fourth lighthouse in the country.” The first being in Sandy Hook, N.J., 1764, Boston Harbor, 1783, Portland, Maine, 1791.
Another lighthouse keeper who held the distinction of having a woman manning the beacon is Cedar Island that lies between the South Fork of Long Island and Shelter Island “posing a danger to ships entering and leaving the port. “Getting in and out ofSag Harborcould be hazardous to mariners. The federal government realized this and onAugust 20, 1838, purchased the three-acreCedarIslandfrom the ‘Trustees of the Freeholder and Commonality of the town ofEast Hamptonfor $200’” reports Robert Muller in his article Cedar Island Light Station.
The spring of 1861 brought Nathaniel Edwards to the Cedar Point Lighthouse as a lighthouse keeper. He married Mary (Polly) Eldridge in 1826. “They had a daughter, Mary Lucy Edwards, in1833. InApril 1855 Mary Lucy married Charles Finch Sherman (son of formerCedarIslandkeeper Lyman Sherman…When Nathaniel passed away on May21, 1862, his wife took over as keeper until a new keeper was assigned in September.”
In 1917, William H. Follett was the keeper from 1917 until the light was turned off in 1934. William Follett and wife Atta reportedly enjoyed living at the lighthouse. “During the summers, grandchildren spent time on the tiny island, swimming, boating, and fishing to pass the time. Warren and Bob Allen, grandsons of the Follett’s, lived at the lighthouse full time for a few years until they had to go to school. Then they would come and spend summers.
Lighthouse keepers relied on tenders for supplies. Tulip,Hawthorne, andHickorywould occasionally visit, bringing supplies or inspectors. The Tulip brought oil, coal and wood to the area’s lighthouses. TheHawthornewould bring paint, turpentine, and various supplies for the maintenance of the lighthouses, and also bring inspectors to visit the light stations twice each year. TheHickorywas used to maintain buoys.
Living on ocean front property on Long Islandeven in the 18th century came with a price. The lighthouse keeper had long hours. The pay was low. There were times when the families did not know if they would survive a storm wailing at night and yet their journals are testimony to the happy times.
Today the lighthouses in the country are automated by the United States Coast Guard with the exception ofBostonHarborwhich is manned by a Coast Guard service person.